Sunday, August 30, 2015

Hooray for Judge Phyllis Frye!

Front page of the New York Times (here)!  I've known Judge Frye for around 15 years, and she and her wife Trish are lovely, warm, wicked-smart people. 

I wish that her time at the University of Houston Law Center had been more welcoming.  The story captures some of what she went through:
The self-defense, combined with a charm offensive, began in law school itself, at the University of Houston. During her first semester, she felt shunned. Determined to break out of her isolation, she requested the seating charts for her classes, memorized her classmates’ names and approached them one by one. She tussled with the administration to gain access to the women’s restroom, the kind of fight that continues to this day.
 I'm so proud of her that I could burst, and I know that her story will inspire others.

Tale of a customer service fail (GrubHub)

Last night, we decided to order in and catch up on some shows, so I did what I often do when I'm out of town--order from GrubHub.  I ordered nice and early (yes, we're early risers, so we're early diners, too), on the theory that the food might take more than an hour to arrive.  I got a confirmation number with my "yes, you've made an order" notice (below).  After more than an hour had passed without getting the food, I called the restaurant, which told me that I had no such order on file.  I started to order directly from the restaurant, because we like the food there a lot, and then decided that I'd order elsewhere instead (which we did).  I told the restaurant that we didn't want to order, after all.  I tried to contact GrubHub, but the website was down, the phone was busy, etc.  So I tweeted my problem to +GrubHub Seamless.  Radio silence.

Three hours later, the restaurant's delivery person showed up w/our order.  Apparently, GrubHub put the order through once its website was back up.  We told the delivery person that we'd canceled the order three hours earlier. 

I got back on Twitter and on Facebook.  The Facebook site indicates that the same thing was happening to more people.  I posted another tweet, and once I finally got the GrubHub email that "my order was in the works" (three hours too late), I replied and explained my problem--and asked that I not be charged.

STILL radio silence.  Let's see how long it takes for GrubHub to get back to me and others affected by yesterday's webfail.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Banality of hate (repost, with a comment).

Professor LeRoy makes an important point about failing to realize the precursors to evil (here).  By staying silent when evil occurs, we are making our world less safe and diminishing our civilization.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Proudest moment of my time at UHLC.

I had so many good times at UHLC, including (surprisingly enough) the post-Tropical Storm Allison time, when everyone at the law school -- including those inside the school and our alumni and other supporters -- pulled together to rebuild just under $50 million in damage.  But probably the high point was working with UH's then-president Art Smith, with Sondra Tennessee, and with Seth Chandler on the decision to move Loyola-New Orleans's law school INTO UHLC after Katrina.  Loyola's community became wonderful neighbors and friends.  As we remember Hurricane Katrina, it's a chance for me to thank again all those who made that temporary arrangement seamless.

So proud of UNLV's Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering!

If you ever want to see the value of research in action, watch this clip.  Thanks to Professors Brendan O'Toole and Mohamed Trabia and their team, Hailey Dawson now has her "special hand."

Friday, August 07, 2015

I'm not a ConLaw person, but ...

I'm really not a ConLaw person--you can tell that from my law school transcript--but I think that there is a difference between saying something where people can walk away from the speaker and saying a lot of things where people are stuck listening to that person.  It's a hard issue, though.  I get that.

The tough issue that the Salaita case raises is that no one knows if what he says outside of class (hateful, but entirely his right, and I'd be first in line to defend him--and then first in line to meet his speech w/different speech) would also affect how he'd treat students inside class (where he would have to create a learning environment in which students would be treated fairly).  I'm glad that Prof. LeRoy is part of this debate.  I'm glad that others are, too.  What I hope is that everyone understands the complexity of the issue.

Too often, unfortunately, people say that there's only one side of a particular issue and that anyone on the other side is wrong-headed, or discriminatory, or dumb.  And that's no way to debate a peer.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The world lost a mensch.

My old friend, Seymour Serebnick, just passed away.  I loved his boundless curiosity and his deep generosity of spirit.  He knew of my love of Disney and was always finding me rare surprises.  And he and I loved to talk about the law.  He's in my heart, and his family is in my thoughts.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Just a couple of thoughts on ASARCO.

I think that the dissent was closer to being right than the majority opinion was (of course I think so:  I was one of four folks on this amicus brief), and that Congress should fix the problem by adopting the test that we proposed in our brief (fees for substantially prevailing).  The majority opinion will tempt parties who like objecting to fees for strategic reasons to do more of these types of objections; professionals may respond by increasing their base rates (or increasing them more rapidly) to take the possibility of objections (and unreimbursed defenses) into account; and a court's only likely response is to consider whether really obviously strategic-only objections were actually frivolous.  On the other hand, there's still the "you don't object to mine, and I won't object to yours" behavior, so maybe the opinion won't have as drastic an effect as I fear.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


Taken directly from our announcement--couldn't have written it better myself:
On behalf of Dean Rama Venkat, the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering is proud to announce that our team DRC-Hubo @UNLV finished in eighth place among the world’s best robotics teams competing in the 2015 U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Challenge Finals, just a few points below universities such as Carnegie Melon and MIT.
Launched in response to a humanitarian need that became glaringly clear during the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011, the DARPA Robotics Challenge consisted of three increasingly demanding competitions over two years. The goal was to accelerate progress in robotics and hasten the day when robots can enter areas too dangerous for humans and mitigate the impacts of natural or man-made disasters.

UNLV’s team, led by Lincy Professor of Unmanned Autonomous Systems, Paul Oh, performed six of eight tasks in 57 minutes and 41 seconds, giving the team the eighth place spot. The team performed better than competitors from Lockheed Martin, Virginia Tech, University of California, Los Angeles, Seoul National University and more. Joining UNLV on the team are students and one professor from Kookmin University in Seoul, Korea, as well as professionals from robotics company Praxis Aerospace.

Driving was arguably the most challenging task in the completion, but Oh hoped that UNLV would emerge as a leader in that area.  Metal Robot drove in less than 60 seconds, ranking among the top teams in the competition.

In case you missed it, please check out this UNLV slideshow, highlighting some of the most exciting aspects of the competition.  

During the competition, Oh and members of the team were featured in Computer World, U.S. News & World Report, Armed with Science(the U.S. Department of Defense science blog) and Popular Science.

You can see a play by play of the event on the COE Facebook and Twitter feeds.

We also worked with several other media outlets on larger projects that will be aired in the near future. Outlets include NOVA on PBS, The Economist, GQ Magazine, Daily Planet/Discovery Channel Canada,  Inside Unmanned Aerial Systems Magazine,  RAI Italian National TV, Robo Nation TV, Tech Biz Geeks blog and more.

Oh and team members also will be featured in several documentaries including “My Life with a Robot,” by French company Belotta films, a project by screenwriter Michael Bacall and a move production by To the Stars media.

Thousands of spectators visited the two-day competition, which also featured a large technology exposition. UNLV’s College of Engineering had a booth in this expo, attracting hundreds of people to follow us on social media, as well as hundreds of prospective students who filled out cards seeking additional information on our robotics programs.

Overall, it’s an epic success for our Engineering Program to be featured with the likes of Carnegie Melon, MIT, Lockheed Martin and more. We couldn’t be more proud of our team.